Inspire. Educate. Entertain.
The first day is done and I've survived - just barely. My bidding of "adieu" the night before we opened the Burundi Film Center raised some concerns from friends (much appreciated by the way!), and without watering down how immense of a challenge it was teaching 38 students in my (sometimes distant) second language, it happened.
Bridget, Sabrina, Raymond and I all arrived an hour before class was scheduled to start at 9:00am. Our banner amazingly arrived before we did, and so we mounted it and sat back for a moment to assess the state of affairs. Thirty two dilapidated chairs menacingly faced a whiteboard at the front of the room where we were left hanging without a net for the entire day. Textbooks? Yeah right. A curriculum? Hardly. We're operating on zero budget, with all our own equipment, and the bulk of our preparations have been dedicated to just getting to this point. Everyone talks about climbing the mountain, but when it's too late I remember that it's the descent that usually kills you.
I insisted we push back the opening to a Wednesday so we weren't dealing with the prospect of a full five day work week right off the bat. We also tracked down a French dubbed version of the South African film Tsotsi (2006 Oscar winner for best foreign language film) to watch in the afternoon and have some common ground to start talking about the principles of storytelling. Both of these proved invaluable choices. The morning started with Raymond doing an introduction in Kirundi (native language) to our overflowing class of students. A scriptwriting competition was held a few months ago that helped us determine our 30 participants, but since then word has spread, deal-making promises were made and the general interest in what we're doing is overwhelming. We're still trying to figure out how to keep the numbers manageable.
After Raymond, I basically took over to talk about our goals, our hopes for the BFC and start getting to know everyone. We pressed our slogan on them - "Inspire. Educate. Entertain." (en français, we used: S'éduqué. S'inspiré. S'amusé. - but I'm not sure about the grammar) as the three goals we hope to accomplish as teachers, and the three goals we hope their films will accomplish. We also wanted to get to know them personally, but more importantly, hear the types of stories they want to tell. I didn't need to remind them that the world knows nothing about Burundi - although I did anyway to draw out their best stories. But they were more aware than I that all the countries surrounding them, notably Rwanda, have received huge global interest because their stories have been told on film. They're all itching for their turn, and with any luck we will be able to piece together enough of an all inclusive course to get that started.